This is Michigan’s largest state park and Michigan’s only state designated wilderness. Begin at the Visitor Center for not only basic park info but also daily programs. Learn to use a compass, read a map, make a fire without matches; hike to Summit Peak, Nonesuch copper mine location, Union River; discover local history, geology, archaeology; identify the park’s flora and fauna.
“The Porkies,” named because they look like crouching porcupines, offer 60,000 acres of mostly untamed forest filled with wildlife. Hiking is extremely popular; there are 90 miles of trails, from easy strolls – some handicapped-accessible – to heart-pumping rugged treks that stretch muscles and endurance. Any hike in the park is likely to take you through the forest to waterfalls and rivers. It’s not uncommon to see black bears.
Other activities include camping, fishing, swimming, canoeing, kayaking, mountain biking, and in the winter, skiing.
The jewel of the park is Lake of the Clouds. Awesome year-round; breathtakingly beautiful in the fall. Typically viewed from above the lake at the overlook. There’s a handicapped-accessible wooden walkway from the parking lot (which has restrooms) to the viewing site above the lake. Signage provides information about its geology, plant and animal life and history. The lake is a mile long but only 15 feet deep. It was once called Carp Lake. Not because it had carp but because it was “Lac du Escarpe,” French for Lake of the Escarpment. It was re-named Lakes of the Clouds in the 1930s.
Park manager Jeff Gaertner says July and August bring campers; late September and early October bring leaf-peepers to Lake of the Clouds, one of the most photographed spots in the Midwest.
The park offers a variety of lodging possibilities from primitive backcountry camping sites to modern camping sites to cabins to yurts.